The word masochist is used for someone who enjoys what others consider unpleasant:

1.1 (In general use) a person who enjoys an activity that appears to be painful or tedious:

It also has song sexual connotations:

1.0 A person who derives sexual gratification from their own pain or humiliation:

Is there a word that describes this condition without the sexual baggage?

Citations from ODO

  • 1
    Masichist is not only sexual: 3. A willingness or tendency to subject oneself to unpleasant or trying experiences. One can say that someone who chooses a very difficult or damagingly physical profession is a masochist. Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 23:32
  • Masochism doesn't refer only to sex related pain but any kind of pain inflicted on the masochist. And not only pain, but any kind of suffering or humiliation.
    – Centaurus
    Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 23:32
  • 2
    Your title and your final sentence do not agree. There is a difference between 'like not nice things' and 'not like nice things'. Which do you mean? Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 23:34
  • I will give some examples: Someone who enjoys rain instead of sunshine Someone who doesn't like sugar in their tea Someone who doesn't like to be around their friends and family but likes to be alone Someone who doesn't like to eat cake but likes apples To sum up: Things that are usually nice and pleasant but the person prefers usually the complete opposite. How would you describe such person?
    – Annie
    Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 23:48
  • 2
    @Annie: You are simply describing someone who has different tastes than you do. If you live in semi-desert, as I do, rain is pleasant if only for the novelty. Sugar in tea - especially iced tea - makes me want to spit it out. And so on. I would be a masochist only if I e.g. refrained from putting sugar in my tea even though I actually liked sweetened drinks. (Which I very emphatically don't.)
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 0:04

5 Answers 5


I believe that you have overestimated the problem. "Masochism" was indeed coined to describe sexual gratification through pain, specifically in the case of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch.

However, the word has gained such wide currency without the sexual baggage that unless you specify the sexual version, it is unlikely you will offend anyone's sense of propriety.

For instance the n-gram of "masochism" vs "sexual masochism"enter image description here https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=masochism%2C+sexual+masochism&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t1%3B%2Cmasochism%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Csexual%20masochism%3B%2Cc0

shows the comparative usage pretty well.

  • 6
    On the other hand, if a sexual connotation is implied with the word, then the need to add the adjective would be very low, as is demonstrated by the ngram. In short, without examining the individual usages, I'm not sure this ngram proves anything one way or the other.
    – Jim
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 1:49

Some might call them a glutton for punishment

Someone who habitually takes on burdensome or unpleasant tasks or unreasonable amounts of work. For example, Rose agreed to organize the church fair for the third year in a row-she's a glutton for punishment . This expression originated as a glutton for work in the late 1800s, punishment being substituted about a century later. 1

1The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. S.v. "glutton for punishment." Retrieved July 20 2015 from http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/glutton+for+punishment


Emotional masochism – the tendency to find some strange or subtle pleasure (familiarity, self-justification, delicious self-victimization) – may be the culprit. An alternative way to view this is to call chronic yet avoidable emotional pain a psychological attachment.

Reference: blogs.psychcentral.com


Sadomasochist helps differentiate from what you describe. Plain “masochist” enjoys pain without sex. “Sado” implies sexual.





  1. departing from usual or accepted standards, especially in social or sexual behaviour. "deviant behaviour"


  1. a deviant person or thing. "killers, deviants, and those whose actions are beyond most human comprehension" [my emphasis]

synonyms: nonconformist, eccentric, maverick, individualist, exception, outsider, misfit, fish out of water, square peg in a round hole, round peg in a square hole; More

Also pervert

  • But again, this adds a lot of sexuality
    – Annie
    Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 23:21
  • 1
    @Annie - It doesn't have to. Both adjective and noun have other possible meanings than sexuality in the definition I quoted. Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 23:37
  • 4
    Deviant doesn't specifically reference taking enjoyment from pain or humiliation; it cannot be exchanged with masochist without a loss of meaning.
    – choster
    Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 23:49
  • 2
    Both your choices are usually sexually related, especially pervert, but neither have anything specific to enjoying pain, -1 Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 1:58

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